From yard signs to birdhouses to holiday decorations and more, homeowners may find all sorts of reasons to set a temporary post. To do this, you’ll need a post anchor, which is a sturdy metal stake that retains the end of a 4×4 post. You can find post anchors sold at hardware stores, home-improvement outlets and landscaping supply centers. They cost $20-$25 and are reusable, year after year.
Halloween in my neighborhood is a huge community event, and many of the houses—mine included—go crazy with the decorations. A lot of neighbors stick with the store-bought inflatables and Styrofoam tombstones, but I’m partial to homemade scarecrows. I typically build the scarecrow with a PVC skeleton and mount it on a 4×4 post.
There are a zillion ways to construct a scarecrow, but your new decoration won’t do you much good if you can’t mount it upright.
That’s where the post anchor comes in. To do the job you’ll need: Post anchor; Sledge hammer ; 12″ length of scrap 4×4; Hand level; 4×4 post; Exterior wood screws; Drill/driver.
First things first: Locate any underground utilities so you don’t drive the stake into them. When in doubt, call 811.
The job is simple. Determine your post location, orient the face of the post and press the first inch into the ground to keep it upright. Use the scrap 4×4 block to absorb the blows of your sledge hammer as you drive it into the ground. (TIP: Crush an aluminum can flat and place it inside the bottom of the anchor beneath the post. The can serves as a shield to prevent the end grain from wedging into the anchor’s webbing and becoming stuck). As your hammer it in, keep checking each face of the post anchor with a hand level to make sure your post stays plumb as you set it. Once the anchor’s mounting cup is nearly at grade, remove the scrap and insert the post. Fasten from each side into the post using sturdy exterior-grade wood screws.
That’s the basics of how I set my scarecrows. However, expect to exert a little elbow grease when you need to pull stake back out of the ground. My procedure for removing the stake is to use an 8-ft. 2×6 as a giant lever to pry up the anchor. Fasten the face of the 2×6 to the face of the post using a lag screw (structural screw or 1/2″ through-bolt also works). The bolt will serve as a hinge while you push the end of the lever upward, leveraging its end against the ground. Remember the longer your lever, the more force you can easily exert. Plus, always remember to keep your back straight and push/lift with your legs to avoid injury. (Sometimes this job can require some major muscle, and I recommend a 2×6 over a 2×4 board because I have snapped a 2×4 in half when doing this in the past).
The new “jack-in-the-box” scarecrow was built with a PVC skeleton, a chicken-wire body and wrapped in heavy-duty garbage bags.
I cobbled together the box from old shipping pallets. You can use this idea, or create your own decoration. If you do, we’d love to see your results, so take a photo and send us an email!
Have fun decorating and Happy Halloween from Extreme How-To.
– M. Weber